NEVER FOR­GOT­TEN

Laws in­volv­ing miss­ing peo­ple topic of an­nual event

The Saline Courier Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Sarah Perry [email protected]­ton­courier.com

Each year, fam­i­lies of miss­ing peo­ple gather from across the state dur­ing The Never For­got­ten: Arkansas Takes Ac­tion event. This year’s event, which took place in Ben­ton, fea­tured lengthy dis­cus­sions about two new laws in­volv­ing how po­lice han­dle cases of miss­ing peo­ple.

Act 913 au­tho­rizes the collaborat­ion of mul­ti­ple agen­cies when re­spond­ing to cases in­volv­ing miss­ing or en­dan­gered chil­dren. Un­der the act, the Arkansas At­tor­ney Gen­eral, Arkansas State Po­lice, Crim­i­nal Jus­tice In­sti­tute, Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion, Arkansas Sher­iffs’ As­so­ci­a­tion, Arkansas Depart­ment of Emer­gency Management, Arkansas As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice, Depart­ment of Com­mu­nity Cor­rec­tion and Of­fice of Pros­e­cu­tor Co­or­di­na­tor will have a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing to im­ple­ment statewide child ab­duc­tion re­sponse teams.

Act 920 out­lines how law en­force­ment should re­spond when re­ceiv­ing a re­port of a miss­ing per­son.

“A law en­force­ment agency shall not re­quire a de­lay be­fore ac­cept­ing or in­ves­ti­gat­ing a re­port of a miss­ing per­son when re­li­able in­for­ma­tion has been pro­vided to the law en­force­ment agency that the per­son is miss­ing,” ac­cord­ing to the act.

The pres­ence of a next of kin is also not re­quired for law en­force­ment to be­gin an in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­der the law.

Both laws were spon­sored by Rep. Re­becca Petty, whose 12-year-old daugh­ter An­dria was ab­ducted, raped and mur­dered in 1999.

“Petty chose to fight for the rights of crime vic­tims and fo­cus her an­guish on keep­ing the chil­dren of Amer­ica safe from preda­tory crime and ab­duc­tion. She works closely with law en­force­ment, crime vic­tims, chil­dren, par­ents, law­mak­ers, and her com­mu­nity,” ac­cord­ing to the Arkansas House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The Never For­got­ten: Arkansas Takes Ac­tion features a panel dis­cus­sion for fam­ily mem­bers of miss­ing in­di­vid­u­als as well as train­ing for law en­force­ment.

As re­quired un­der newly en­acted Act 1920, “all law en­force­ment in the state shall com­plete train­ing re­lated to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of uniden­ti­fied and miss­ing per­sons.”

This train­ing will be con­ducted in con­junc­tion with re­source avail­able through the Na­tional Miss­ing and Uniden­ti­fied Per­sons Sys­tem.

Thurs­day’s event served as the first class of the new train­ing ini­tia­tive.

“I’m so ex­cited to see this ini­tia­tive to­day,” said

Jami Cook, direc­tor for the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety.

Along with in-per­son train­ing, an on­line train­ing pro­gram has also been cre­ated. Law en­force­ment will have one year to com­plete the train­ing, Cook added.

“We’ve come a long way and we’re not go­ing to stop fight­ing,” said Ker­mit Chan­nell, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Arkansas State Crime Lab. “(Law en­force­ment) want to do it. Now they will know how to do it.”

Fam­ily mem­bers say strides have been made in­volv­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of cases, but there is still a long way to go.

Fol­low­ing the 2017 event, a re­source guide was cre­ated to help fam­i­lies know what to do when an adult is miss­ing. To date, more than 4,000 guides have been dis­trib­uted, said Arkansas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Les­lie Rut­ledge.

Dur­ing this year’s event, Re­becca Glenn, who’s brother Ken­neth Weaver is miss­ing gave the panel an­other idea. She sug­gested po­lice of­fi­cers, dur­ing train­ing, hear from an in­di­vid­ual who has a miss­ing loved one in hopes that law en­force­ment can bet­ter un­der­stand and learn how to com­mu­ni­cate with fam­i­lies.

Lit­tle Rock Chief of Po­lice Keith Humphrey took this sug­ges­tion to heart.

“The Lit­tle Rock Po­lice Depart­ment will be do­ing that. That’s a prom­ise,” he said.

Humphrey told the group he was one of the of­fi­cers who re­sponded in 1996 when Am­ber Hager­man’s body was dis­cov­ered in Ar­ling­ton, Texas. Hager­man is the name­sake for Am­ber Alerts, mes­sages dis­trib­uted when a child has been ab­ducted.

In Arkansas, the alerts are named in honor of Morgan Nick, who was kid­napped from a baseball game in

Alma.

To this day, the per­son re­spon­si­ble for Hager­man’s death has not been lo­cated, Humphrey said.

“Each and every one of you all is in­spi­ra­tion… We learn for you all,” Humphrey said.

Along with be­ing an event to share ideas, Never For­got­ten: Arkansas Takes Ac­tion serves as a way for fam­i­lies of miss­ing peo­ple to con­nect.

Dur­ing the lun­cheon por­tion of the event, Rut­ledge hon­ored peo­ple who are miss­ing and their fam­ily.

“I fi­nally get it now as a mom,” Rut­ledge said while telling sto­ries of her al­most 1-year-old daugh­ter. “We ad­mire your strength and per­sis­tence.”

SARAH PERRY/THE Sa­line Courier

Colleen Nick, mother of Morgan Nick who has been miss­ing since 1995, leads an exercise with other fam­i­lies of miss­ing peo­ple Thurs­day at the Ben­ton Event Cen­ter. The Never For­got­ten: Arkansas Takes Ac­tion event hosted by Arkansas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Les­lie Rut­ledge in­cludes ac­tiv­i­ties for fam­i­lies as well as train­ing for law en­force­ment about in­ves­ti­gat­ing miss­ing per­sons cases.

SARAH PERRY/THE Sa­line Courier

Colleen Nick, mother of Morgan Nick who has been miss­ing since 1995, shares a ten­der mo­ment with Alma Po­lice Chief Rus­sell White while pre­sent­ing him with the Morgan Choice Award. The two share quite a bond since White has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing Nick’s dis­ap­pear­ance for the ma­jor­ity of his ca­reer. White re­tired last month af­ter 39 years on the force.

SARAH PERRY/THE Sa­line Courier

Lit­tle Rock Chief of Po­lice Keith Humphrey, cen­ter, ad­dress fam­i­lies dur­ing a panel dis­cus­sion. Other mem­bers of the panel pic­tured in­clude Jami Cook, sec­re­tary for the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety and Ker­mit Chan­nell, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Arkansas State Crime Lab.

SARAH PERRY/THE Sa­line Courier

Kansas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Derek Sch­midt served as the key­note speaker for the lun­cheon por­tion of the event.

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